Gov. Cuomo urges help from Big Labor to address fiscal crisisDecember 18, 2020
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo huddled virtually with labor leaders to discuss the gravity of New York’s pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis as he and lawmakers struggle to close a massive hole in next year’s budget.
“The governor’s message was, ‘Things are dire. I’m going to need your help,’” a union source said of Wednesday’s secret chat.
The labor insider said the secret Wednesday meeting had its tense moments, with Cuomo expressing displeasure over the 2.5 million New York State AFL-CIO putting its muscle behind a letter supporting state lawmakers holding an emergency end-of-year session to impose $7 billion to $9 billion in tax hikes on the wealthy to deal with the fiscal crisis.
The letter basically sided with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who wants to pass taxes right away, as opposed to Cuomo, who wants to address taxes and spending as part of next year’s budget talks and waiting to see if Congress and President-elect Joe Biden deliver COVID-19 relief aid early next year.
Participants in the conference call included George Gresham, president of health care workers union 1199/SEIU; Andy Pallotta, head of New York State United Teachers, and Mary Sullivan, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing the largest number of state government work workers.
Their unions were among the ten who signed on to the AFLI-CIO tax the wealthy letter.
“Andy is in constant communication with the governor’s office on ways to stave off harmful cuts to education as we gear up for the budget process in the coming session,” NYSUT spokesman Matthew Hamilton said when asked about the meeting.
Both Cuomo and the union leaders expressed consternation that Congress will not immediately cough up money to help close the state’s massive budget hole, and worried any aid that may come after President-elect Biden takes office next year will be too late to prevent deep cuts in spending, which raises the specter of layoffs of government workers.
Cuomo’s office had no immediate comment.
But the governor did please the unions when he also announced on Wednesday he would advance $1.5 billion to “central organizations” to provide cash flow to avoid disruption including layoffs.
The NY AFL-CIO put out a statement Thursday applauding the move and expressing a more conciliatory view toward the governor’s position of addressing the tax issue as part of next year’s budget.
“This action will stave off layoffs through the foreseeable future. It will also provide New York with a clearer picture of the economic landscape and allow us to have a better idea of federal funding to state and local governments, led by the efforts of the Biden administration,” the statement said.
“Addressing this crisis during the state budget process, and with a more comprehensive approach that will include tax increases and revenue enhancers, will help to ensure that New York State gets back on solid financial footing, and more importantly, saves the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” the AFL-CIO added.
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